The official numbers aren’t back yet, but the first-annual Riptide Music Festival was a modestly sized affair with a healthy attendance. Over 20,000 music fans made their way to Fort Lauderdale Beach for South Florida’s second beach fest at the same location, the other being the country-music and conservation-minded Rock the Ocean's Tortuga Music Festival. However, the event might have been much, much bigger had organizers landed their first choice for headliner: Green Day.
According to the executive producer of Riptide, Von Freeman, had it not been for some health-related issues with the wife of Green Day’s bassist, Mike Dirnt, the superstar punk band would’ve launched the inaugural offering from 104.3 The Shark. As it was, however, the radio station still managed to assemble an interesting lineup of bands for what was essentially two festivals in one.
Saturday, dubbed "Sharkwrecked at the Riptide Music Festival," was all about alternative and indie rock. Standout acts included Dirty Heads, Glass Animals, Miike Snow, the Struts, and the evening’s headliners, AWOLNation and Silversun Pickups. One notable absence was Good Charlotte. The band unceremoniously canceled its appearance without warning. (“After we’d already paid them,” Freeman lamented.)
The loss was minimal and ultimately unnoticed. First-year events always have hiccups, and the bands that followed through were plenty good. English glam-rock provocateurs the Struts and their unabashed exploitation of '80s rock were a massive hit. Frontman Luke Spiller is equal parts Mick Jagger and Freddie Mercury, making love to the audience with the most exaggerated of body movements. The Dirty Heads, a band born for the beach, made a big splash as well, their hip-hop reggae an ideal fit for the surroundings.
Things didn’t go as well for electronic producer and singer/songwriter Robert DeLong. After rushing to the fest straight from the airport, DeLong found that half of his equipment didn’t work. To his credit, DeLong attempted to salvage the trainwreck by chatting with the audience and singing three acoustic songs on his electric guitar, but in the end the set had to be abandoned when it was clear the technical difficulties couldn’t be overcome.
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By comparison, Sunday was, well, perfect. The Baby Boomers were out in strength for a roster that boasted A Flock of Seagulls, the Fixx, Exposé, Earth Wind and Fire, and the B-52s. The crowd was older but no less rambunctious than its Gen Y counterparts the day before. For example, when Miami’s Exposé came onstage, an entire generation of South Floridians relived its '90s nightclub glory days. The excitement for Earth Wind and Fire was palpable as well. After sharing a moment for the departed Maurice White, the iconic band was off with the silkiest, smoothest grooves this side of Prince.
Despite only having one main stage, there was hardly any waiting between bands as the crews behind the scenes worked ceaselessly to prepare the next act on the rotating stage. In addition to the music, Riptide featured a number of other distractions. Although it was about half the size of Tortuga, Riptide made the most of the oceanfront real estate with the Corona ESPN Radio Sports Bar and its Underground Village.
The sports bar featured half a dozen TVs, plenty of seating, hammocks, corn hole boards, and a giant tent to get everyone out of the sun (although to be honest, it was breezy and overcast the entire weekend, allowing everyone to remain cool throughout). Meanwhile, the Underground Village was a quirky little spot with a small stage for pop-up shows, an animated GIF photo booth, and free snacks provided by Goya.
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Riptide is the ambitious vision of 104.3 The Shark and its parent company, Entercom. This weekend’s fest was the second big music event they’ve orchestrated in 2016. Undertow Jam at Revolution Live this past Memorial Day Weekend also shot for the stars, both in terms of scope and talent. The fact that South Florida was without a rock station on the radio for years and has been deprived of their accompanying events is a shame. Thankfully, it’s a shame we’ll no longer have to endure if The Shark and the people behind it continue to strive for big music bashes. All we ask is that they keep trying, because it’s a good bet they’ll land that big fish sooner rather than later.